China’s cultural and tourism market recovers during the Spring Festival holiday –

Tourists look at lanterns in the Laomendong scenic area in Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu province, 22 January 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

If there is one phrase to describe the past Spring Festival holiday, it is “Ren Shan Ren Hai”, a Chinese idiom meaning there are many people outside.

The first Spring Festival holiday since China streamlined its COVID-19 response policies saw the buzz return to tourist attractions and cultural sites, a strong signal that the country’s economy will see a steady recovery this year.

Booming tourism

Taishun County, located in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, welcomed more than 280,000 tourists during the holiday after a dance performance inspired by the county’s specially-shaped bridges was broadcast nationwide at this year’s China Central Television Spring Festival Gala ( CCTV).

“The bridges were swarming with tourists and the county received 50 percent more visits during this holiday than the previous year,” said local official Shen Haiqing.

Data from Alibaba’s travel arm Fliggy showed domestic orders for long-haul travel during the Spring Festival surged more than 500 percent year-on-year, with domestic flight and train bookings up more than 40 percent, respectively, and almost 80 percent.

Shanghai received more than 10 million visits, with its main tourist attractions receiving more than 4.1 million, about 90 percent of the figure during the same holiday in 2019.

During the same period, Beijing recorded more than 7 million tourist visits, and tourism revenue reached 7.46 billion yuan (about 1.1 billion US dollars), up 57.6 percent year-on-year. Chen Tao, who works at a travel company in Beijing, said the market during this year’s Spring Festival holiday was “much better” than last year.

“We had over 70 tour groups, and tourists from outside Beijing accounted for more than 80 percent of the total,” Chen said.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, passengers made 308 million domestic trips, up 23.1 percent from 2022.

“We saw a boom in tourism during the Spring Festival holiday, and we can expect steady market growth for the rest of the year,” said Dai Bin, president of the China Academy of Tourism.

Traditional culture revived

Traditional holiday activities, almost unseen in many places over the past three years due to the epidemic, have attracted millions of tourists seeking the nostalgic buzzing atmosphere of the Spring Festival.

According to official figures, more than 470 million visitors participated in about 110,000 public cultural events, including lantern shows and traditional folk opera performances across the country.

In the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, Li Ji, manager of a dragon dance performance company, was busy handling performance orders. Usually performed at holiday celebrations, the dragon dance involves a team of dancers using poles to rhythmically move a giant dragon puppet.

“Our phone line is overwhelmed with fulfillment orders,” Li said. “We sent over 200 performers to Beijing and other cities to create festive emotions for the audience.”

Data from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage shows that Beijing’s museums recorded about 1 million tourist visits during the holiday, with the Palace Museum and the National Museum of China being the top picks.

“The younger generation celebrates the Spring Festival in more ways. The return of traditional festival activities embodies people’s attachment to traditional festival culture and their trust in culture,” said Li Xiangzhen, an associate professor of social sciences at Wuhan University.

Audiences back in theaters

On Friday, the last day of the week-long Spring Festival holiday, cinema manager He Feiyu was surprised by the throngs of moviegoers despite a cold temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius in Hohhot, the capital of northern China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

“Normally, people tend to go to the cinema on the first and second days of the Chinese Lunar New Year, but attendance numbers remain high during this year’s holiday. The public enthusiasm for films seems to have been fired up,” he said.

China’s movie box office receipts reached nearly 6.76 billion yuan during this year’s Spring Festival holiday, making it the second-highest gross for the holiday so far, the China Film Administration said on Saturday.

Spanning various genres, this year’s holiday films were professionally made and fully catered to the audience’s specific requirements.

Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, said movie consumption is expected to continue to rise after the holiday as people who were busy traveling during the Spring Festival holiday have the opportunity to watch movies.

“People’s enthusiasm for going to the movies could last for a few weeks,” Rao predicted.

“We are working overtime to serve moviegoers,” said Liang Jikang, a cinema manager in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, pointing to a popcorn machine that rarely has a minute to rest.

“Our confidence has been boosted and the future will be better,” Liang added.

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